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Running and HDL levels

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by , June 12th, 2009 at 04:31 PM (3376 Views)
A year ago, I was just swimming, lifting weights, and doing a little bit of cycling. I had a physical done and my cholesterol counts were not optimal. My doc suggested that I cut the saturated fats out of my diet. I did so as much as possible and in October had another cholesterol test. My LDL level (the bad cholesterol) had dropped, but so had my HDL level (the good cholesterol). The HDL level had dropped to 50. At the beginning of 2009, I decided to start running on a consistent basis. I had a physical a little over two weeks ago, but before I started my new nutrition plan. My good cholesterol had skyrocketed to 66. Apparently, anything over 60 is supposed to be protective against heart disease and only 10% of the population over 40 has an HDL over 60.

My bad cholesterol level is better than a year ago, but still not quite optimal. This is why having an outstanding good cholesterol level is so important for me. So, because of this, I have decided to keep my running up during the horrid heat and humidity. I'm convinced that running is the cause of the HDL boost.

Today, I went out and ran 6 miles. I have decided that since I am running in less than optimal conditions, I will not worry about my time or pace this summer. Today I ran the first 3 miles at what felt like a pretty steady pace, but the last 3 miles I had to throw a little bit of walking in there.

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Updated June 12th, 2009 at 05:03 PM by elise526

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  1. The Fortress's Avatar
    Does your doctor think running is responsible for it?

    To me, running is so much more enjoyable when I don't worry about time or pace!
  2. elise526's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by The Fortress
    Does your doctor think running is responsible for it?

    To me, running is so much more enjoyable when I don't worry about time or pace!
    I got the results back before meeting with him (he is my GP) because his office gave me a copy to take to my annual cardiologist appointment. So, I will have back-to-back appointments with both docs and will be curious to hear their explaination for the improvement. In the past, my GP has attributed it to good genes. Now that I have had a period of running, not running, and then running again, his view might change.

    I know there is a connection to exercise and especially distance running for some reason. I can't think of any other reason. I did not change my diet appreciably between October and late May.

    I've kept my physical results over the years and when I was doing a lot more running back in 2001 to 2004, my cholesterol readings were amazing. Apparently, after I stopped running consistently, the bad cholesterol started creeping up and the good went down. Can't be explained by age because why the sudden improvement?
    Updated June 12th, 2009 at 08:40 PM by elise526
  3. Chris Stevenson's Avatar
    HDL is also hugely affected by genetics. I work out pretty much and I eat pretty healthy but my levels are very low. Even with Lipitor, my HDL is in the upper 30s; without it, we're talking teens and I don't think running would improve it any.

    My doctor says my family is to blame.... (Thankfully my other numbers are all very good, though when I indulge my sweet-tooth too much my triglycerides can be a little high.)
  4. elise526's Avatar
    Here is an interesting study from the New England Journal of Medicine (also found at http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/334/20/1298 ):

    High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol and Other Risk Factors for Coronary Heart Disease in Female Runners

    Paul T. Williams, Ph.D.
    ABSTRACT
    Background Official guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assert that the majority of health benefits from physical activity are obtained by walking 2 miles (3.2 km) briskly most days of the week (the energy equivalent of running 8 to 12 km per week). The objective of our study was to examine the dose–response relation in women between risk factors for coronary heart disease, particularly the concentration of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and vigorous exercise at levels that exceed the official guidelines.
    Methods The number of kilometers run per week reported by 1837 female recreational runners in a national cross-sectional survey was compared with medical data provided by the women's physicians.
    Results In these cross-sectional data, plasma HDL cholesterol concentrations were higher by an average (±SE) of 0.133±0.020 mg per deciliter (0.003±0.0005 mmol per liter) for every additional kilometer run per week, an amount nearly identical with that previously reported for men (0.136±0.006 mg per deciliter [0.004±0.0002 mmol per liter] per kilometer per week). Among women who ran less than 48 km per week, mean plasma HDL concentrations were significantly higher with each 16-km increment in distance. Women who ran more than 64 km per week had significantly higher mean concentrations of HDL cholesterol than did women who ran less than 48 km per week. They were also significantly more likely to have HDL cholesterol concentrations greater than 100, 90, or 80 mg per deciliter (2.6, 2.3, or 2.1 mmol per liter) than were women running less than 64 km per week. HDL cholesterol concentrations increased significantly in relation to the number of kilometers run per week in premenopausal women who were not using oral contraceptives and in postmenopausal women, whether they were receiving estrogen-replacement therapy or not.
    Conclusions Substantial increases in HDL cholesterol concentrations were found in women who exercised at levels exceeding current guidelines; higher HDL cholesterol concentrations could provide added health benefits to these women.

  5. elise526's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Stevenson
    HDL is also hugely affected by genetics. I work out pretty much and I eat pretty healthy but my levels are very low. Even with Lipitor, my HDL is in the upper 30s; without it, we're talking teens and I don't think running would improve it any.

    My doctor says my family is to blame.... (Thankfully my other numbers are all very good, though when I indulge my sweet-tooth too much my triglycerides can be a little high.)
    I am starting to think there is no escaping the genes. I have rather bizarre cholesterol readings. My LDL lately seems to be in the borderline high area while my trigylcerides are almost too low. My last reading was 47. I think there is an NIH study going right now for people with trigylcerides below 50. It has been as low as 33. My doc has hinted that my good genes explain the low triglycerides and high HDL, but my diet may be responsible for my LDL. Still, I have to figure the gene for high LDLs is separate from the one for high HDLS. I think I have a bad gene for the LDL because in the last year, I really haven't been eating much fried foods, red meat, or baked goods.

    Chris - My dad would totally agree with you. Changes in diet and execise made no difference for him. Those cholesterol readings kept creeping up so that he had to go on statins.
    Updated June 12th, 2009 at 09:46 PM by elise526
  6. Chris Stevenson's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by elise526
    Chris - My dad would totally agree with you. Changes in diet and execise made no difference for him. Those cholesterol readings kept creeping up so that he had to go on statins.
    Fortunately my LDL readings are pretty low too.

    My parents are polar opposites: my Dad, who avoids exercise, has stellar blood chemistry and great blood pressure. My mother and her side of the family, however...
  7. elise526's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Stevenson
    Fortunately my LDL readings are pretty low too.

    My parents are polar opposites: my Dad, who avoids exercise, has stellar blood chemistry and great blood pressure. My mother and her side of the family, however...
    Your dad sounds like my husband. Not a huge fan of exercise although he has started swimming lately. He eats foods that I avoid - red meat, lots of eggs, saturated fats. His cholesterol is better than mine.

    You are blessed to have low LDLs.